SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Democratic electors in New Mexico cast their votes for Joe Biden on Monday as the Democratic president-elect cleared the 270-electoral-vote mark to formalize his presidential victory, amid new local protests and objections by Republicans to the voting process and outcome.
Biden won the statewide popular vote in New Mexico by a margin of nearly 11 percentage points over President Donald Trump. Democratic Party-appointed electors cast five Electoral College votes in favor of Biden on Monday.
That didn't stop a group identified as Republican Party-appointed electors from gathering in a hallway of the state Capitol to sign papers indicating their support for Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, in cooperation with two people who recorded video with their phones. State Republican Party spokesman Mike Curtis said the people were exercising free speech.
Trump's campaign committee filed a lawsuit Monday in U.S. District Court in New Mexico that accused election regulators of violating state law concerning drop boxes that were used to collect absentee ballots.
The lawsuit contends that secure containers for collecting ballots should be guarded by video surveillance and that the rules were not being followed.
In a news release, the Republican Party of New Mexico, led by former congressman Steve Pearce, said it worked with Trump's legal team and is questioning the validity of votes and the outcome of the presidential election.
“We have questioned these drop boxes and the entire election process," Pearce said in a statement.
The secretary of state's office characterized the lawsuit as “yet another attempt by the outgoing Trump administration to silence the voices of lawful voters," according to an email from agency spokesman Alex Curtas.
He said that the state Republican Party has acknowledged that the drop box system was appropriate by withdrawing an earlier lawsuit on the matter.
“We look forward to its swift dismissal,” Curtas said in the email.
The Electoral College took on added importance this year because of Trump’s refusal to concede he lost his race for reelection.
In New Mexico, Democratic Party-appointed members of the Electoral College wore face masks as a precaution against the coronavirus as they met inside a Statehouse committee room to cast their votes in favor of Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.
The meeting was accessible to the public and media by video webcast only. Electors of diverse backgrounds greeted the public briefly in English, Spanish and a Native American language.
The last time New Mexico sided with a Republican presidential candidate was the 2004 reelection of George W. Bush.
There were no immediate signs or protest or celebration outside the Capitol building, which has been the site of weekly pro-Trump rallies since the Nov. 7 election.
At a state district court in Albuquerque, defeated Republican congressional candidate and former police detective Michelle Garcia Holmes on Monday filed a detailed plan for inspecting hundreds of thousands of election ballots in the state’s most populous county.
With support of the Republican Party, Garcia Holmes filed a court petition in early December to ensure Bernalillo County ballots are accessible for inspection by volunteers at a storage warehouse.
She said in court filings that the request was made “with an eye toward prospective improvements in election policy and retrospective, outside verification of certain results.”
Pearce has said the effort is linked to a widespread examination of vote tabulation equipment.
U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland defeated Garcia Holmes by 16 percentage points, or more than 52,000 votes, to win reelection to the Albuquerque-based 1st Congressional District.
Republicans flipped control of the 2nd Congressional District in southern New Mexico with the victory of Yvette Herrell over first-term Rep. Xochitl Torres Small.